Running and climbing stairs (Read 154 times)


    I can go run slowly for miles (ok, at least 8-12) without dying, but climb a few flights, and I'm huffing and puffing like an out of breath chain-smoker. Which I haven't been for years now. What gives? Does running fitness ever spill over into other activities? Or is specificity of the activity coming into play here? Climbing up flights has never been easy for me. Stairclimber to the rescue? I've been warned about stairclimbers being a quad dominant activity and not being very helpful towards running fitness. Am I forever doomed to huff and puff on stairs?


      Climbing stairs is hard because you are climbing.  One online calculator I found suggests that walking stairs (30% grade) at 16:00 MPM is equivalent to running at 7:00 MPM.



        You will get better at it if you run steep hills/stairs more often. you will the develop muscles for the strength needed to climb/run uphill.

        Ive just spent november running nothing but steep hills and my butt is now as hard as a rock 

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        Old , Ugly and slow

          Something is really wrong. I  climbed stairs today at work a lot with no problem. I  l know i couldn't run 12 miles.

          first race sept 1977 last race sept 2007


          2019  goals   1000  miles  , 190 pounds , deadlift 400 touch my toes



            Veteran marathoner, fast 5k-er, and (previously) nationally ranked mountain runner here...I get winded on stairs.  Sometimes I have a hard time walking and chewing gum and breathing.  I have asthma and a messed up septum, so I can breathe fine when I am laser focused on the task (running) but have a hard time with random activities.  And climbing stairs IS different from running.  Some fitness carries over, but not specific fitness.  If you notice it getting worse, schedule an appt with your primary care doc and they may order a chest x-ray or refer you to a pulmonologist/allergist.  Probably nothing to worry about, but to answer your question, if you're like me, yes, you will be doomed to be winded on stairs forever.  


            Stair stepper is very quad dominant and probably won't help your running and could likely hinder it.  Running hilly routes is a better option.

            Not running for my health, but in spite of it.


              Something is really wrong. I  climbed stairs today at work a lot with no problem. I  l know i couldn't run 12 miles.


              One flight of stairs is perhaps a 10-15 second effort.  That's not enough time for it to be a problem.


              I think folks under appreciate how much harder climbing is.  Here is a cycling example.  At 200 Watts a 150lb rider on a 17lb bike will go 20.9 MPH on a flat course, but only 2.00 MPH on a 30% climb.




              Sure you can train specifically for stairs, but that won't change the physics.  You need to go a lot slower on stairs for the effort to be equivalent to flat terrain.  OP is simply going too fast.


              OP:  What is your regular easy pace?


                The past 5 weeks I have added a 30 min stairclimber routine.. mostly doing intervals 2 min very fast (at vo2 max heart rate) and 2 min slow.  It is extremely difficult but I have seen a lot of benefit from it.  I also have started a strength training routine which could help as well.  My Vo2 max on my garmin has steadily climber 9 points during this time and I have felt so much stronger and faster.  The vo2 max may also have something to do with the drop in temperature but I'd like to think my training had something to do with it.   I think the stairclimber helps target areas runners are injury prone to like hips and glutes too.  Just my 2 cents.  I'm sure running hills and other work outs would provide similar benefits but this seems to be helping me right now.   Stairs are no joke though.. I nickname the machine the revolving stairs of terror for a reason Smile.

                Elite Jogger

                  I prefer to use an elevator.

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                    My regular easy pace is between 12-13 mpm. Yeah, on the slow side, and no this doesn't include walking. I'm working on getting better at this. Sometimes it feels I can walk faster than I can run, certainly so on uphills. Every time I've tried to do some speed work, I've ended up with some injury or the other, so for now I'm focusing on time on feet (lots of hiking) with some running thrown in. I'm increasing my running volume very very slowly. At this time I'm more concerned about staying injury free than getting faster.


                    Thanks for your comments about the difficulty of climbing stairs. Climbing stairs in particular feels harder than walking/running uphill. Weird!


                    What's do you think would be a better contributor to running fitness - stairclimber or treadmill at 15% incline?


                    I lost my rama


                      What's do you think would be a better contributor to running fitness - stairclimber or treadmill at 15% incline?


                      I get winded after more than 2 flights of stairs, even when I'm in great running shape.  If your goal is simply improved running fitness I think just adding hills to a run or two a week is sufficient.... and that's mostly to help develop other leg muscles.  But generally for improving running fitness, run more miles, mostly easy.


                      Here's an example on how the two are different.  I ran a steep mountain race with a friend - uphill was 17% avg grade.  I started 5 minutes ahead of him, but he caught and passed me in less than 5 miles.  Yet his best marathon is 4:12 and my best is 3:26 - so clearly he was a better climber and I a better runner.  Unless you're planning on racing on steep hills or in the mountains, I wouldn't worry about the stairs, unless as piwikiwi suggested - help firm up that butt.


                      Edit - But obviously one needs a level of aerobic fitness to run or climb stairs, so they're not totally mutually exclusive. 

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                        I would be careful with the stair climbing..... here is the back story............... in my trade I climb ladders every day all day----usually with a toolbelt on and usually ALSO with something heavy on my shoulder.---One upside to my job is that I have 4 months off each winter----and I can spend that time taking care of my legs. About 15-20 years ago I spent a winter stair climbing-----------the gym I was going to occupied the first 2 floors of a building and ,among other things gave us access to 17 flights of stairs ----so up 17 flights/down 17 flights,up 17 flights, down 17 flights. I was doing well over 100plus flights a day . once winter was over and I went back to work I stood up one day and blew my knee---ended up with surgery--------------I have always felt all those stairs did me no favors . Stairs are more to do with weight lifting than they are to do with running. I am 55 now and all things in moderation. Run one day(NEVER on pavement), bike the next. In the worst weather(blizzard?)---swim laps. 365 days a year.

                          Do more hills, don't sweat the stairs! Got it. Thanks all Smile


                            You are also tapping a lot more into your anaerobic system on the stairs which long slow running does almost nothing to improve.


                            I'm coming into this from the general strength and fitness world and I was an anaerobic beast because it is so time-effective to train that way.  I sprinted up 10 flights of stairs once all-out until almost 1 min to the second which is where we all poop out going nearly pure anaerobic.  My lungs and legs quit at once and I had to walk.


                            Anyway, my anaerobic fitness levels made it so my first "long" run as a more focused runner (previously running like 6mi per month) I knocked out a 10.75mi trail run no problem.  My worry was to gradually build up miles so as not to get a structural injury, the "cardio" part was handled.


                            A HIIT workout 1x per week won't hurt your running and would really help with short burst tasks like stairs, running from a bear etc.  They can be as short as 4 mins (Tabata protocol) or up to 15/20 max, so it doesn't take much time.



                              A stair is a 7" rise for 11" run.  That's steep, and most trails don''t approach that.


                              4-10-21  Zion 100 (Utah)